Steve Jobs: iSad.

On Wednesday, the news came as complete shock. My boyfriend and I were getting ready to turn on one of our favorite shows, when he opened the internet browser on the computer just for a minute. Across the top was a bar:

BREAKING: Steve Jobs died.

He read it aloud to me, “Steve Jobs died.”

In that exact moment, my stomach dropped and I felt an aching feeling run through my entire body. Then there was shock. “What?!” was all I could say. But then again, we all knew of his public battle with such a deadly form of cancer, and the fact that he had so recently stepped down from his title at the company he started literally from nothing.

But that sickness I felt was just that — sickness. Like I was going to throw up. As a former roommate of mine put it when I told her the news of her ex-boyfriend passing, “I know how you upset you get about death, and I hope you’ll be okay.”

When she told me those words, it was like my exact feelings that I had never spoken aloud to anyone were finally verbalized. I do get upset about death. Especially when it is someone that I know, or even once knew. But truthfully, what upsets me the most about death, as a Christian, is feeling absolutely helpless just knowing (or believing, rather) where that person could be, forever.

I have never considered myself a judgmental person, despite my Christian beliefs, that are often mistaken by others for nothing other than judgment. I have always tried my hardest to listen to everyone, and take in what they say. If I meet someone who has different beliefs than me, I ask questions, I listen, and I try to understand where they are coming from. Because the truth is, we all believe what we believe for a reason. Everyone has gone through different experiences in their lives to shape them into who they are today. So, if you tell me that you don’t believe that God exists, I respect that, and honestly want to hear your story. There is no right or wrong with religion–because the fact is true for everyone: we all think that we are right.

And maybe we are. Maybe Christians are right. Maybe Atheists are right. Maybe Buddhists are right. The truth is: no one knows who is right or wrong as long as we live on this earth. So I can sit here and tell you until I take my last breath on this earth that Christianity is the only “right” in this world, but honestly I will not know until I die. We all hope that we are right, but we also have to acknowledge that someone will be wrong, but at that point, it is “too late” because we are dead. And no one can come back after they die, so who knows?

So, back to Steve Jobs. When I heard of his death, immediately, I was sick. (I guess I’ve established that three times now.) Because to me, as a Christian, learning about the death of someone that is so publicly a believing and practicing Buddhist, makes me so sad. It makes me upset. It makes me angry. It makes me mad. And in that moment, all I can do is what I believe is right–pray. Pray that God somehow intervened in Steve’s finally weeks, days, or hours. Maybe that he sensed the end was coming for him, and realized that forever is just that–for ever. And once you die, that’s it. There is no second chance.

Perhaps you understand the one statement that I am skating around but will not say publicly because those don’t share the same beliefs as me may get upset, but hopefully you do understand what I am saying. And when you stop and think about it–that one statement–it is absolutely, undeniably, ridiculously terrifying.

There’s one thing that we all can agree on despite our religious beliefs and differences: Steve Jobs was the definition of brilliance. He was undoubtedly blessed. (In my opinion of course), the Lord blessed him with an amazing, literally one-of-a-kind mind that was capable of so much success. The reason I am able to type all of these words out right now on a laptop is because of that man and his brain. He transformed so much of our world and I believe he absolutely deserved his success. The Lord does not choose to bless all of us with a mind like Steve Jobs, but He blesses each of us in other ways. (For me, I like to think that He blessed me with writing, but that remains to be seen!)

What saddens me to the extreme about Steve, and again I am not judging when I say this but am merely making an observation, is that I wish so badly that he could have credited God for his success. That maybe he could have believed that none of what he did would have been possibly without Him, because God made him that way for a reason. But of course, not everyone thinks that way, but I ultimately wish that he could have attested his brilliance to God. If that were the case, I don’t think I would have felt so sick learning about his death.

Regardless of Steve’s beliefs, or spirituality, or personal life, he is still a person. He is still a human being. And he is still a life. I feel a huge weight of sadness for his wife, who is now a widow (at a relatively young age), and for his four precious children who now have to live their rest of their lives without a father. It is a tragic story no matter which angle it is viewed — Christians, Atheists, Buddhists, Agnostics. No matter what, this brilliant man has left this earth way too soon.

Maybe he is right. Maybe he died, and his family is at peace with his death because he will be reborn into another being, such as an animal. Maybe others are right and he died, and he’s just … gone. Maybe Christians are right and he stood before God (our ultimate and only Judge) and was asked why he should be allowed into His eternal kingdom. Whatever the case, we have lost someone who has changed technology and the world as we knew it; we have lost a human being who has done so much good; we have lost a person with a beautiful and now grieving family; and we have lost someone who will continue to inspire me, to truly never give up on your dreams.


Not a Tale of That Day, but a Story of How I Feel TODAY

[I meant to write and post this on the more appropriate day, which was in fact, yesterday. But some extenuating circumstances with my internet left me unable to write yesterday, so just pretend like I am writing this yesterday–September 11, 2011.]

As I sit here, in Florida, thinking of my life exactly ten years ago, I feel utter sadness, emptiness, and anger. But at the same time, I feel hopeful. I feel grateful. And I feel blessed. Is it possible to feel all of those emotions at one time? Given the events of this day ten years ago, I would say that it definitely is.

I’m not going to sit here and recount my story of September 11 and rehash where I was, or what I was doing, or even begin to try to put into words my feelings and thoughts during that time. You can read my story here, which is a tale I’ve spun many times over the last ten years. Now, enough is enough. You know where I was. You know how I felt (or at least had some sort of idea). You know that I love my father and shortly after that day, I realized why God chose not to end his life (or at least one of the reasons). But today, I’m not sure if anyone knows how I feel about it all–at this exact moment in time. Because today, I amaze myself at the apparent maturity I’ve developed over the last ten years.

Let’s rewind. Here’s me, approximately one month of after the events of 9/11 took place in my very town of residence:

I had just turned 14 years old. I had braces, had just received surgery extracting four permanent teeth from my mouth, leaving me looking like a jack-o-lantern come Homecoming my freshman year. I had never loved another male before, and had never even kissed one (turns out, I still had four years to go before that changed). My dad and I fought all the time, were in and out of counseling for most of our lives, and pretty much–I was going through an extreme awkward phase like most of us did at this age. But one thing is for sure: I had no realization of the exact magnitude those events had on thousands of individuals in my country, state, town, and even school. Yes, people died. Yes, the people who hijacked the planes were evil. Yes, we will never be the same again. All of those were facts that I understood, despite almost loosing my father–but I never really felt super emotional about it.

In college, I watched the movie “World Trade Center” when it was on HBO in our townhouse my junior year. I was 20 years old, and I was sobbing at the end of the movie. My mom happened to call at that moment and I answered the phone crying and she had no idea why. All I could say was, “All of those people, Mom. All of those people!” It amazed me that, at the end of the movie, when those two men were being carried out, hundreds, and possibly even thousands, of people were there to help carry them out. Two people were coming out and so many people came to support and help them. People they didn’t even know! That, right there, was total and complete selflessness that was visually demonstrated to my 20-year-old self.

Though it’s been only four mere years since I watched that film and cried (which I can name on less than the amount of fingers of one hand how many movies I have cried watching), I am still in many ways still a selfish young adult, but I am beginning to see myself coming out of that in the recent months. How do I know this? I can recognize selfless acts that other people do, and am also beginning to *attempt* to do them myself. (Nothing like rushing into a burning people to save people, but you should get the idea.)

I watched this special edition episode of Dateline that aired on Friday. While it was difficult to watch, it was, to me, a very moving and powerful tribute to that awful day. Although we’ve all see the footage unfortunately more than we care to admit, a few things really struck a chord with me as I was watching this episode.

One thing that struck me as selfless and amazing were the videos and images of firefighters and policemen responding to the the first crash, and even after the second. People were running through the streets of New York, running for their lives, as far as they possibly could from the towers, and where were these brave firefighters and policeman going? TOWARD the incinerating building shooting out debris like a torpedo. How incredible is that? Sure, firefighters are trained to go inside burning buildings as a profession, which they do, sadly, but there is absolutely no amount of training or experience that could have prepared them for what they faced with when they reached those buildings.

Dateline reported that the width of the stairwells inside the towers were “wide” enough for two people to stand side by side and that was it. Therefore, there was enough room for two lines of people to go down at one time. Or, as these firefighters put it–one line going down, and another going up. People were running down these stairs, single-file, fighting with the firefighters telling them not to go up there. But no, they had to get up there to help those that were trapped. And sadly, I’m not sure how many of those that did actually go up to help ever came out alive. That is absolutely, completely, the most heroic and selfless act any one person could possibly carry out. To go into a building that frankly, no one knew would be collapsing, to help people that they didn’t know–complete strangers–is so admirable.

Then I saw this picture in my Newsweek that arrived in my mailbox last week. While usually flipping through the magazine, not really stopping to look at a lot of the pictures, and skimming through articles, I stopped and starred at this photo for a good five or ten minutes. I had never seen this picture before, and the fact that it covered two pages in this issue made its statement even more powerful.

If one picture could represent September 11, 2001 forever, it would not be one of the plane hitting the second tower; it would not be one of the buildings falling or people jumping; it would be this one. Because I believe this picture embodies so much of that day and shows what our country is all about, to this day. Look at the picture for a few moments and what do you see? People, covering the streets of Manhattan (a rarity, to be in the middle of the usual grid-locked yellow taxis that litter the streets as much as trash litters the subway lines). These people are white. They are black. They are Asian. They are Middle-Eastern. They are young. They are old. They are middle-aged. One is wearing a suit. The other is wearing a t-shirt and probably jeans. Another is wearing a wind-breaker jacket (and facing the opposite direction, for whatever reason). Another is wearing a dress shirt and tie. Some have glasses, some have grey hair. Some have long hair, some have short hair. Some have no hair. Some are married. Some are single. Some are engaged and some are widowed. Some live in Manhattan, others in the Bronx or New Jersey. Some work on Wall Street, others work as a dishwasher at a restaurant on Water Street. Some are from New York. Others are from China. Some are from Queens, some are from Brooklyn. But two things are the same with every last person in this picture. Their expression, and the direction of their faces. Though there’s so many differences in the people–what they look like, what they’re wearing, where they’re from–they all have the exact same reaction to what they were seeing with their naked eye. And, to epitomize this picture of America even more, there is conveniently a Starbucks in the background. 😉

This picture makes me believe in the good of mankind. It makes me believe that though there are sick people out there, there are also good. There are people who know right from wrong, people who care for others, and people who are willing to risk their lives for others whether that be a policeman, firefighter, or member of the military. That makes the evilness that we see every day happening in this world–the sin and destruction–whether it is murder, rape, theft, adultery, cheating, or even just mean words, seem like it is rare. Because pictures like this make all of the bad people in the world just… fade, even if it’s only for a moment.

But then I remember who is responsible for the reactions of those people in that picture. Who brought those expressions to their faces? “Evildoers” as the Bible says. Sadly, this was an act of bin Laden, who has since been brought to justice, but also led a big organization capable of trying to destroy our country as we knew it. He and his organization took thousands of lives “all for the sake of Jihad” as they frequently stated in the book I read earlier this year about bin Laden, titled, “Growing up with bin Laden,” written by bin Laden’s first wife and his second to oldest son. He took innocent lives and in the end–lost, though his organization still believes otherwise.

Innocent lives like the father of a girl I met in Manhattan at a bar nearly two years ago, who still feels so much pain. She is engaged now and will not be walked down the aisle by her “smart, loving, and intelligent” (as she put it yesterday) father. She read his name, along with dozens of others yesterday at the anniversary ceremony. What a courageous woman she is.

Or another innocent life–like the one of my dad’s precious co-workers at the Pentagon, Jerry. I still remember his name to this day, and I’ve thought and prayed for his family so much over the last ten years. I remember my mother telling me that he had a daughter my age, who attended a nearby high school. And that daughter never heard from her father that night, and I remember praying feverishly that he was just trapped in the rubble and would be rescued alive. But he never was. How easily could this have been my own father’s fate? It wasn’t, praise God, but it sure could have been. And because of that, I feel pain for these two girls. And the 3,000 others with the same story of their fathers, or their mothers, or husbands, or wives, or even–children.

The Life, the Beliefs, and the Thoughts of Osama Bin Laden: What Was Going On?

Having no formal responsibilities (such as, a job) equals having a lot of free time during the day. Having a lot of free time, unfortunately for me has always equaled having a lot of thoughts. My mind is the most powerful weapon I will ever own. It analyzes, it creates, it manipulates, it twists, it turns, and it exaggerates. When I have time, I tend to over-think a lot of things. I tend to read, to investigate, and to dig deeper. I do, in fact, possess that “curious about the world,” characteristic that Columbia looks for in a student. And lucky for me, I have free time now that I am unemployed, and because I have so much time, I have been reading, researching, and watching a lot of material on Osama bin Laden.

I’m not sure if it is just my curious nature, or my over-analytical brain that is thinking this way, or if anyone else is feeling this way, but now that this man is dead, I really want to know more about his life. Most of all, I want to learn why, in this world, someone could hate Americans so much that they are willing to try to kill as many of them as they can, including some of their own. That is the biggest, most unanswered question I have right now, and I’m sure (at least, I hope) there are many others feeling the same way.

The way I am trying to see it is from this seemingly (to me) neutral standpoint: perhaps he, and his followers, see us (“Americans”) as we see them. We see them as evil, as terrorists, as killers. We are a diverse nation. We are the land of the free, and most importantly, as displayed on Sunday evening, the home of the brave. We are the land of opportunity. We run on a democracy. We are a free nation. We are allowed to speak what we wish, think what we wish, and praise God, write what we wish.

We are divided, too, because we all have different political beliefs. We are Republicans. We are Democrats. We are independents. We are Jewish. We are Atheists. We are Mormon. We are Christians. We are Muslim. We are Buddhists. We are executives. We are CEOs. We are politicians. We are custodians. We are engineers. We are social workers. We are restaurant managers. We are train conductors. We are unemployed.

But we all, as Americans, all agree beyond the shadow of a doubt: terrorists are wrong. Terrorists are evil. Terrorists must be destroyed. Terrorists must pay for what they’ve done to us, for trying to take away our freedom, to shake our foundation, and to attempt to exterminate our ways of life. Even those that once served our country, put their life on the line for our freedom, who somehow turned on their country and bombed an innocent office building killing over 100 people, must die for what they’ve done. We all agree with that, no matter our religion, our political stance, or our economic “class status,” that terrorists are the face of evil and that they must pay for what they’ve done.

So maybe, in the world that Osama bin Laden grew up in, or in the Muslim community, or maybe in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, or just in his household, he was taught to view Americans as we view terrorists. More than anything else that we say, do, or believe, we are Americans and that is what he hates. More than anything else, he is a terrorist and that is what we hate. So as we are taught to hate terrorists, he is taught to hate Americans. Make sense? That’s the only way I can begin my research on this “organization” or group of followers; to view his way of life basically as the opposite of mine, and with an open mind, despite what I’ve been taught, know, or believe. Because I am curious to know, more than anything, why he hated us so much that he was willing to sit in his caves, compounds, wherever he was from time to time, and literally think of how he could shake our foundation literally to the ground. I don’t understand it, believe me. I don’t know if I ever will. That very man, his very brain, his very followers, tried to kill my own father. They wanted my father dead so badly that they were willing to volunteer themselves and their lives to kill him. Praise God that they did not succeed in killing my father, but there are 3,000 others in this country who cannot say that. His plans to end their lives because they were Americans succeeded in that sense. But I pray that those families who are left felt justice on Sunday, because finally, what we all as Americans agreed on completely, fully, with every fiber our beings, happened: he paid his price for taking so many lives.

Stay tuned. I have many more thoughts and things to share. And if you have a comment, or a conflict with what I’ve said, please feel free to voice your opinion. I am truly open to all sides and thinking regarding this topic.